Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday Food for Thought

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
- Dalai Lama

Around this time last year, I had a very long and at times heated discussion with an old friend of mine covering the state of our lives and our families. We have very different philosophies: he being of the conservative, capitalist bent and me being, of course, one of those bleeding-heart, non-materialistic libruls to whom money means very little.

In the midst of it all, as we pondered about how our families viewed us (and after reminding him that mine, who share much of his political perspective, tended to look down on me because I was sick and poor - not one of those 'hard-working taxpayer' types who lives for the day when they can retire and then start enjoying life somehow - if they live that long) and he asked me this question: 'What makes the world go around?'

It would have been easiest just to respond with the old cliched answer: money. But that's not what I believe. My answer, instead, was 'love'. Well. That set off a bit of a firestorm, needless to say. 'Love??' How naive could I possibly be?

As one who writes about politics and power, I know full well what may drive those with their hands on the wheel. That wasn't my point because, when it all comes down to it, if you do not have love you do not have anything. It really is that simple for me. It's only love that keeps the world on a semi-sane footing; that stops us all from killing and hurting each other with impunity; that fosters goodwill and moves us to help our fellow human beings. Every truly charitable act begins with a measure of compassion - the ability to love others as we would like to be loved. Authentic love does not cause harm. Only misguided, misunderstood love of money, idols, ideologies and power turn its expression into something that is ugly and vile.

So no. It's not money that makes the world go around.

We seem to be like flies caught in honey. Because life is sweet we do not want to give it up, and yet the more we become involved in it, the more we are trapped, limited, and frustrated. We love it and hate it at the same time. We fall in love with people and possessions only to be tortured by anxiety for them. The conflict is not only between ourselves and the surrouncing universe; it is between ourselves and ourselves. For intractable nature is both around and within us.
-Alan W Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

And that is how I came to writing about love today. While looking back over the past year in the world with all of its wars, torture, wounds, hatred, death and intolerance, I was reminded that the reason I feel so deeply about all of these injustices is the realization that the ongoing battle between love of money vs love of our neighbours has left some deep and serious blows in its wake. No amount of money in the world however can heal what we face today; no amount of money that is not motivated by authentic love and a committment to true peace and reconciliation.

I was also reminded that life really is about facing each moment one day at a time. That constant, longing attachments to the strong desire to heal what we all see around us in the world only stunts my ability to deal with it when it is right in front of me in the form of those closest to me and those I don't even know whom I care about while I wallow in my sorrow for them.

I've had many days when, after writing about the latest horrendous news about victims who've suffered so gravely at the hands of those who only want their deaths, I've felt that hopelessness that comes with expectations that maybe tomorrow things will get better. It's much more fruitful to see things as they are, in this moment, giving acknowledgment to those who suffer so they know they have a kindred spirit who is there in thought with them and then to take at least some action to reach out and help as much as possible in that moment. A bleeding-heart can only be of service once its own wounds are under control.

As this year comes to end, I have tried not to expect the worst from humanity and those who worship the god of money. It's with open eyes that I see yet another year ahead of all of us that will bring much more death and destruction. At this point, it's simply unavoidable. As I go through it however, and this is the only resolution I will or can make, I will resolve to be more present in my life so that it may affect others in a positive way. And that begins in this moment and the next and the one after that because that's all I do and will have.

A footnote: Life's lessons often fall hard on people. My friend found out just a few days before Christmas that he most likely has colon cancer. That's an awfully tough way to learn about the value and importance of love over money (which he so vigorously pursued without end) as his career's future is now very uncertain. At least he knows that I understand.

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